August 27th, 2013
11:06 AM ET

Yosemite Wildfire Only 20% Contained

The massive wildfire burning in-and-around Yosemite National Park continues to rage as some 3,600 firefighters battle to contain it.

The Rim Fire is one of the largest in California's history. It has already consumed more than 160 thousand acres and is only about 20% contained, CNN’s Nick Valencia reports. 

Crews are determined to keep the blaze from spreading further into Yosemite, especially Yosemite Valley, home of the Half Dome rock formation.

"Visitors are through here by the thousands, going into the north entrance of the park. This year that's not going to happen," says Lee Bentley, spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service.

 Valencia says, “the dangerous inferno is still rated to have extreme ‘growth’ potential as massive flames ignite rows of trees and dry brush.”

“More than two dozen aircraft are being used to fight the fire, the steep terrain making it nearly impossible to access some of the forest by land.”

The Rim Fire also threatens a reservoir that supplies both water and power sources for San Francisco, as well as several groves of towering age-old sequoias.

Near the fire lines, Groveland, California, seems like a ghost town.

One bar owner says its peak season is leading into Labor Day, but with the highway into Yosemite closed, her business in Groveland is down a staggering 98%.

"Everyone who lives here and owns businesses here is terrified," Iron Door Saloon owner Corinna Loh says.

While the economic impact is yet to be seen, businesses and residents are grateful for the thousands of firefighters risking their lives to try and contain the inferno. Of that personnel, Valencia says that only two have reported minor injuries.

He says, “It’s also a remarkable note, for as large as this fire is, no one has died.”

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August 27th, 2013
11:00 AM ET

Obama Rodeo Clown Sets the Record Straight

The rodeo clown who sparked outrage after he wore a President Obama mask speaks out.

Tuffy Gessling says his act was just a joke but the event ignited a firestorm and now he's receiving death threats.

Gessling tells CNN affiliate KCTV, “I didn't do this to do any hating on anyone. I did it to be funny. I did it to be a joke.”

But those offended by the so-called joke call it racist.

“Gessling's bit got him banned from the Missouri State Fair for life,” reports CNN's Athena Jones.

“I've had someone threaten to run me over. One of them wanted to burn the house down,” Gesling says.

“This clown bit has been around for generations, and I didn't think anything more of it than what we've done 15 years ago, 10 years ago, 5 years, when we've done it with Bush, and Clinton and Ronald Reagan.”

Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh agrees, coming to his defense on the “The Rush Limbaugh Show” saying, “This is infantile. This is childish. This is worse than political correctness.”

President Obama hasn't commented but White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest says, “I can tell you as a native Missourian, it's certainly not one of the finer moments for our state.”

Now that the dust has settled over his rodeo routine, Gessling hopes to set the record straight.

“I never did anything because of anybody's race. I don't care what color somebody is—if they’re blue, white, green, polka-dotted, striped. It doesn't bother me one bit.”

Gessling is set to appear at another rodeo coming up in Missouri.

He says, “If President Obama turns out, I'd be honored to shake his hand.”

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August 27th, 2013
05:46 AM ET

"Morning Minute" with Michaela Pereira – August 27, 2013

Need to get today's top stories on-the-go? Watch Michaela Pereira's morning minute now!

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5 Things to Know for Your New Day – Tuesday, August 27
August 27th, 2013
05:30 AM ET

5 Things to Know for Your New Day – Tuesday, August 27

The U.S. says there is no doubt Syria has committed a "moral obscenity," a missing teenager is found dead in Oregon, and cops say they have broken up a huge dogfighting ring in the South.

It’s Tuesday, and here are “5 Things to Know for Your New Day."

Every weekday morning around 6, we’ll hit the top five stories of the day, clue you in on a few other buzzy items and let you know about some of the must-watch stories coming up on CNN’s new morning show, “New Day.”

1. SYRIA

Time for a decision nears: U.N. inspectors in Syria had a tough day. First there was an explosion near the site they were going to. Then they got shot at. Then there was the work of gathering evidence to see if there really was a chemical attack and who was behind it. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says there is no doubt the Syrian government gassed its own people. He calls it a "moral obscenity" that cannot go unanswered. Warships with cruise missiles are being readied, and the president will be given his options in the next few days, a senior administration official says.

Peter Beinart, a senior fellow with the New America Foundation, will analyze the situation for us at 7. And Frederik Pleitgen is in Damascus, the only Western correspondent reporting from Syria.

2. WILDFIRE

The battle intensifies: In the midst of what is some of America's most beautiful wilderness, huge flames continue to spread rapidly, haphazardly and dangerously through California. It is a monster fire, powered by strong winds, a lack of moisture in the air and super dry timber that acts as fuel for the inferno. Officials yesterday sent many more firefighters into the battle, which is nowhere near over. Those that have been fighting the fire – which has charred an area bigger than Chicago – are getting little rest. And the threat grew for San Francisco, even though it's well to the west, because the fire has gotten close to the area that provides water and electricity for the Bay Area.

Nick Valencia is keeping an eye on the fire and will have the latest for us from California this morning.

3. HASAN SENTENCING

Final chance to have his say: Many of the wounds remain that were suffered that day four years ago when Army Maj. Nidal Hasan killed 13 people. Widows fight depression and thoughts of suicide. The real impact of that horrific day is only now coming into full view. At Hasan’s trial, survivors and family members of the people killed are sharing their agonizing stories. Today, prosecutors will call more victims, and then we’ll see if Hasan uses his last chance to speak before his life falls into the hands of a military panel.

Ed Lavandera will recap yesterday’s testimony for us at 6 and 7 and let us know what is in store for today.

4. MISSING TEEN FOUND DEAD

A heartbreaking ending: His dad was worried but hopeful; worried because no one had seen his son in a more than a week and his Honda had been found Wednesday on a road in the Oregon countryside. But David Croom hoped his 18-year-old son, Johnathan, was just copying the main character from “Into The Wild,” a book (and movie) where a young man rejects society and disappears. Instead, the father got terrible news last night. His son is dead, found less than a quarter-mile from his CRV. Police say it looks like it was a suicide.

5. DOGFIGHTING RING BUSTS

Saving the pit bulls: Many lived in doghouses made from barrels with rotted sheets of wood for floors. They were kept from roaming by heavy chains tied to cinder blocks and car tires. They looked like they were starving. One of the mommas tended to her pups in a cage full of poop and trash. And when these dogs weren’t tied up, they were made to fight, police say. In all, nearly 370 were rescued, and authorities arrested 11 people in four states on dogfighting and gambling charges.

Those are your five biggies for the day. Here are a few others that are brewing and have the Internet buzzing.

- “A final act of love”: They met in elementary school, began a romance during World War II and married not long afterward. They had a lifelong devotion to each other as husband and wife that lasted nearly 66 years, and one day earlier this month, they died, just 11 hours apart.

- Open 24 hours; well, not intentionally: The door to a store in Wayne, New Jersey, was open. So a few young men walked in and went shopping. Thing was, no one was working and the lock on the front door had malfunctioned. So what did the guys – with free rein of Buddy’s Small Lots – do? They got what they came for, figured out how much they owed, left the money on the counter and went on their way. Well done, fellas.

- And there was much rejoicing: You know at weddings in Russia, we break you. No, wait, we break DANCE!

- Do you “like” shock therapy? When you’re a student at MIT, there’s probably a better use of your time than, say, a certain social media site created by students years ago at another institute of higher learning in the area. So, what if you were to get a shock each time you overused that site, or any other? Would that stop you? Well, it’s kind of a joke between two geniuses trying to get their doctorates, but it's also helped them cut back. We give you the Pavlov Poke.

- K.I.T.T. car: We don’t know who this guy is or how much he spent over the past three years, but we applaud his work in building what every male child of the '80s wanted: K.I.T.T. from the TV show “Knight Rider.” You know, David Hasselhoff’s 300-mph, talking, indestructible Trans Am with flame throwers and ejection seats! How close is this guy’s replica? About all he’s missing is William Daniels to do the K.I.T.T. voice (and the flame throwers, we trust).

There you go. All you need to know to get an early start to your morning.

Be sure to tune in to "New Day," from 6 to 9 a.m. ET, join us at NewDayCNN.com and go and have a GREAT NEW DAY!

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